By WIL FULTON
Two fighters, one not yet old enough to drink, dance around the center canvas of an elevated ring, gymnasium lights shining down on them as they trade uppercuts and jabs, each desperate to avoid elimination as a boisterous crowd eggs them on.
Welcome to the world of the Golden Gloves, an old-school, 85-year-old amateur boxing tournament that provided a springboard to such notable pugilists as Mike Tyson, Joe Lewis, Evander Holyfield, and a certain young fighter named Cassius Clay.
For the first time in its athletics-laden history, CBA sported a boxing ring in the center of its McKay gym, serving as the stage for the quarterfinal matches in the celebrated statewide tournament.
A new batch of young fighters in nine of the thirteen weight-classes three fighters failed to make weight at the pre-bout weigh-in vied to make an impression in the boxing world, as well as make their way to the state, and perhaps even the national, championship.
CBA president Brother Frank Byrne and Father’s Club vice president Gerry Ward offered redbankgreen some background on how the tournament ended up at the LaSallian institution.
We like to do an event for the Fathers Club every year, Ward said. This year, we wanted to test the waters on something different, so we reached out to the president of the Golden Gloves here in New Jersey.”
Its a great activity and tournament, Byrne said. They were looking for a venue, we were looking for an event, and I remember the Golden Gloves from my time teaching in the Bronx. Its good to have it here in Lincroft.
Asked about the presence of a violent sport inside a Christian-based institution, Byrne said he was confident the tournaments handlers and medical staff would ensure the safety of all participants.
Even though the fighters are all amateurs, most of them really know what they are doing at this point, he said. And the Golden Gloves is an extremely well-run and established tournament. They really do everything to make sure that no one gets seriously injured.
The venue was complete with a Fathers Club VIP Lounge stocked with an open bar, select ringside seats, and a lengthy bleacher section to accommodate the tournament, which makes stops all across the state before it concludes with a round of championship matches at Newarks Prudential Center.
After their official weigh-in inside CBAs locker rooms, the fighters killed time before their bouts warming up with coaches in the corners of the gym, watching their peers duke it out, or quietly meditating.
The New Jersey Golden Gloves tournament continues at the Middletown Township Police Athletic League facility, 70 Murphy Road, starting at 7 p.m. Saturday. Competitors from ages 8 to 34 will compete for a chance to advance to the state finals, which will take place on April 20 in Newark. Ticket prices range from $15 to $35.